Japan's longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigns over health issues
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tendered his resignation on Friday, hours after reports suggested he would take such a step as his health has deteriorated. His tenure was officially due to end in September 2021. Notably, concerns about his health had been swirling after he visited the hospital twice, in a week's time, for an undisclosed illness. Here are more details.
Today, National Broadcaster NHK reported that Abe wants to step down. This was also confirmed by a senior executive of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Hiroshige Seko. To note, LDP had been downplaying his health concerns for quite some time now, with Chief Spokesman Yoshihide Suga saying he didn't get indications of Abe's "poor health" during his recent meetings with the Prime Minister.
Similarly, Abe's close ally Akira Amari also said he was much healthier than in mid-August. "His voice was stronger and the color had returned to his skin," Amari said, but noted that Abe could be exhausted "mentally."
The resignation is eerily similar for Abe, who resigned in 2007, just one year after taking office due to health concerns. Later, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease that leads to inflammation in the digestive tract. In 2012, when he returned to office, Abe announced the disease was under control. But his recent hospital visits, one lasting nearly eight hours, got speculations surging.
In December 2012, Abe scripted history when he returned to office again and this week became the longest-serving PM in Japan's history. His great uncle, Eisaku Sato, had set the record nearly half a century ago. In recent months, however, Abe's ratings dipped as his famed "Abenomics" failed to tackle the country's economic crisis. His handling of the coronavirus pandemic earned brickbats as well.
Reports said Abe's deputy, Taro Aso, could fill in his shoes, but it won't be surprising if the latest development triggers a leadership battle within the party. Another name doing rounds is Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary. An election could also be held. According to Kyodo News, Abe decided to hang his boots anticipating his illness would impede his judgments.